TAKING THE WHEEL
Honeycomb Studio’s Courtney Hamill spun her ceramics dream to fruition
Courtney Hamill isn’t from a creative family. She studied political science at the small Roanoke, Virginia-based Hollins University—and loved it. But to fulfill an elective requirement, she took her first ceramics class her junior year. “I have no idea why I signed up for it,” says Hamill, who is now the owner of Honeycomb Studio, a small-batch porcelain studio in West Midtown. It turned out to be a game-changer.
When she graduated in 2005, Hamill didn’t rush into her first love of politics. Instead, she accepted an exclusive, year-long apprenticeship in nondescript Floyd, Virginia, with her college ceramics professor, Donna Polseno, and her days were filled with full-time pottery. “Donna awakened this whole passion [in me]. It was dumb luck that I was able to continue learning ceramics through her very legitimate apprenticeship. I was wildly underqualified!” Hamill says, laughing.
Unfortunately, the apprenticeship and artistic dream were cut short when Hamill was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and needed a job with health insurance. She moved to North Carolina, where her boyfriend was finishing up his Masters, and began an eight-year career in nonprofit special-event fundraising with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society— a total coincidence.
“I always missed ceramics. I missed the sensation of having my hands in the clay and making things. I was sad that I walked away from it,” Hamill says.
Three years ago, when she was about to turn 30, with savings in the bank and a supportive partner by her side, Hamill knew it was the right time for a change. Having grown up in Marietta since the age of 5 and with family nearby, she knew Atlanta was a natural choice for her next two steps: a ceramics studio and a family of her own.
Honeycomb Studio launched in late 2013 out of the renovated, attached garage of Hamill’s West Midtown home. It soon outgrew its quarters and moved to Old Fourth Ward’s Studioplex before moving back to the Westside last summer.
The boutique studio designs streamlined, sculptural porcelains featuring a restrained glaze palette of blacks, golds and whites. The lines include an antler series (Hamill’s first product), lamps, vases and holiday ornaments. “I learned to trust my gut as far as simplicity goes. I let the porcelain and the form of the piece speak for itself,” Hamill explains.
This year, Honeycomb revealed its first tabletop collection. Over a year in the making, the four-piece tableware set with a raw, modern edge includes a dinner plate, salad plate, tumbler and breakfast bowl in three different color ways. A platter will soon join the grouping, too, Hamill says.
As if launching a major tableware line or managing orders from national retailers such as West Elm didn’t have her busy enough this year, Hamill just gave birth to her second child. As she grows her brood and her business, the artist’s goal is to make small-batch porcelain accessible to more homes while staying authentic. “Human hands have made every single piece,” she says. “Even as we grow, I want to stay true to the handmade spirit.”
She adds, “I generally go pretty hard, but when I need to rest, I have learned to respect that need without letting it defeat me—it’s just the reality of my life [with MS]—and I’ve tried to build my career in such a way that allows me to have those ebbs and flows.”
Ponce City Market
675 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E. 30308
*Tableware collection available exclusively on the website
STORY: Karina Antenucci
Photo: Kim Murray